Eleven Herbs and Spices Revealed?

Mon, Jul 27 • 1

Ron Douglas, author of America’s Most Wanted Recipes, claims he has discovered the secret recipe after lots of chicken, and years of testing. According to an article in The Guardian, the secret ingredients are :

1 teaspoon ground oregano
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon ground sage
1 teaspoon dried basil
1 teaspoon dried marjoram
1 teaspoon pepper
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon onion salt
1 teaspoon garlic powder
2 tablespoons Accent (MSG)

Unfortunately, it’s still pretty difficult to duplicate the fast food chain’s cooking methods, since they use pressure cookers to fry their chicken. However, the home cook does have the advantage of being better able to drain the excess grease from the fried chicken, since we’re not cooking dozens of chickens at once. Also, home cooks have the option of buying better quality, organic, free-range chicken if they choose to. The Guardian even claimed to have come up with what they call a superior mix of herbs and spices, that doesn’t include MSG. This is their recipe and recommended process, the best I can interpret it from the article, as they only roughly describe the process, but they do give a detailed listing of their choice of herbs and spices. The recommend poaching the chicken in milk to insure the chicken is cooked completely to the bone, but that’s a step I’ve never seen in any fried chicken recipe.

“It’s worth noting that chicken marinaded and poached in milk has an unbelievably suave flavour and texture, and that the poaching liquid thickens to create the most soothing cream of chicken soup I’ve ever achieved,” says the article.

1 half gallon whole milk
1 whole chickens, each cut into 8 pieces
1 tsp smoked paprika
1 tsp mustard powder
1 tsp sage
1 tsp celery seeds
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp dried onion flakes
2 tsp salt
1 tsp ground black pepper
1 tsp ground white pepper
2 cups all-purpose flour
peanut oil
for frying

Cut the chickens into 8 parts, splitting the breast in half to allow for even cooking, and saving the backs, necks and wing tips for stock. Marinate overnight in the milk. The next day, lightly poach the chicken in the milk bath for 15 minutes. Remove from heat, and drain. Use enough peanut oil to make a depth of 1 inch in a frying pan. Bring up to 350º heat. While the oil is coming to temperature, mix the spices with the flour. Coat each piece of chicken with the flour mixture, and let set for a couple of minutes, then re-coat each piece. Fry the chicken in the oil, 6 minutes on each side, or until the coating is golden brown. Remove the chicken to a rack and allow excess oil to drip off.

The results were ok. Nothing fantastic. Each piece of chicken was fully cooked, but I didn’t really detect the suave flavor and texture described. In fact, some of the skin was a little chewy and flabby. And frankly, the coating did not come near the flavor of KFC, or any other chain-store fried chicken place I’ve tried. In fact, I’d say it was comparable to cheap grocery store fried chicken.

In the end, my wife and I just didn’t think it came close to competing with my personal favorite recipe for fried chicken, which I think is better than anything you can buy. What I may do, though, is use most of my technique from that recipe, but try to spice it up with the different herbs and spices from these new recipes. Look for that in the coming weeks.


Sixty Years of Christmas Cookies

Sat, Nov 15 • 0
Sixty Years of Christmas Cookies   holiday history cookies
(image courtesy Gourmet Magazine)

Gourmet Magazine offers up a great site detailing 60 years worth of recipes for cookies. The recipes are presented just as they appeared on the pages of the magazine, so the recipes for the cookies from the 40’s don’t presume you’ll be using modern conveniences like a food processor, so you may want to tinker a bit with them, unless you’re aiming for ultimate authenticity.

If you’re on my holiday list, you can look forward to getting to taste some of these this December.

Note: 1/18/2010, With the demise of Gourmet Magazine, or just the passage of time, it appears this link is now dead. Sorry about that.


The Last Meal on the Titanic – The Other Classes

Wed, Apr 16 • 1

What the second and third class passengers on the Titanic ate.

As an aside and an update to the last entry about the Titanic, some people who saw it were wondering what the other people on the ship were eating. The 2nd Class Dinner Menu for April 14, 1912 lists :
The Last Meal on the Titanic   The Other Classes   ТИТАНИК titanic menu history

Consummé
Tapioca
Baked Haddock
Sharp Sauce
Curried Chicken & Rice
Spring Lamb, Mint Sauce
Roast Turkey, Cranberry Sauce
Green Peas
Purée Turnips
Boiled Rice

Boiled & Roast Potatoes
Plum Pudding
Wine Jelly
Cocoanut Sandwich (sic)
American Ice Cream
Nuts Assorted
Cheese
Biscuits
Coffee

Aside from the coconut sandwich, nothing is particularly unusual or foreign from food most of us would still eat today.

The Last Meal on the Titanic   The Other Classes   ТИТАНИК titanic menu history As for the 3rd class passengers, they apparently didn’t have a separate menu for all of their meals. A surviving copy indicates they were offered:

Breakfast: Oatmeal, porridge and milk, smoked herrings, jacket potatoes, ham and eggs, fresh bread & butter, marmalade, Swedish bread, tea and coffee.

(Jacket Potatoes is another name for normal baked potatoes. Fannie Farmer said, in 1918, that Swedish bread was a kind of yeast risen coffee cake, shaped into a braid or a ring, and flavored with almonds.)

Dinner: Rice soup, fresh bread, cabin biscuits, roast beef and brown gravy, sweet corn, boiled potatoes, plum pudding, sweet sauce and fruit.

Tea: Cold meat, cheese and pickles, fresh bread and butter, stewed figs and rice, and tea.

Supper: Gruel, cabin biscuits and cheese.

(Gruel is a hot, wet mixture of some type of cereal, wheat or rye flour, and also rice, boiled in water or milk, similar to oatmeal. According to Technology of Biscuits, Crackers and Cookies, Second Edition, by Duncan Manley, (2000), cabin biscuits are thin butter cookies, usually flavored with vanilla, but not a lot of sugar. )

You may also be interested in reading about what the first class passengers on the Titanic were eating.


The Last Meal on the Titanic

Wed, Apr 9 • 25

It was on April 14th, 1912 — almost 100 years ago — when the last meal was served in the first-class dining room on the RMS Titanic.

The Last Meal on the Titanic   ТИТАНИК titanic menu popular history escoffier As we all know, later that night, the ship collided with an iceberg and sank, with the loss of over 1500 lives. Here’s a detailed look at what was on the menu for the first-class passengers.

The Last Meal on the Titanic   ТИТАНИК titanic menu popular history escoffier First Course
Hors D’Oeuvres
Oysters

Second Course
Consommé Olga
Cream of Barley

Consummé Olga is made with a quart of warmed consummé (clear broth, usually beef) and a pint of good port wine. Then julienne a stalk of celery, the white of a leek, the outside only of a small carrot, and soften in butter over low heat. Add a little more consummé and reduce to a glaze, and then finish cooking the vegetables in it. In a tureen, put the glazed vegetables along with julienned gherkins, and the consummé and wine mixture. (Escoffier, 593)

Third Course
Poached Salmon with Mousseline Sauce, Cucumbers

Mousseline Sauce is a hollandaise sauce that’s fortified with whipped cream. (Escoffier, 92)

Fourth Course
Filet Mignons Lili
Sauté of Chicken, Lyonnaise
Vegetable Marrow Farci

Tournedos Lili are seasoned steak fillets fried in butter, then arranged to form a crown, each on a crust of Potatoes Anna (basically, layered potato slices, generously buttered and baked in a hot oven for 30 minutes; Escoffier 2203), and then topped with an artichoke bottom, garnished with a slice of foie gras, and then topped with a slice of truffle, and served with a Périgueux sauce (Madiera wine, reduced veal stock, and chopped truffle; Escoffier, 47). In other words, this dish is gilding a lilly. (Escoffier, 1101)

The Last Meal on the Titanic   ТИТАНИК titanic menu popular history escoffier Sauce Lyonnaise is a relatively simple sauce in comparison, flavored with sauteed diced onion, and equal parts white wine and vinegar, reduced to a glaze, and added to reduced veal stock (demi-glace). (Escoffier, 43)

Vegetable Marrow Farci is apparently stuffed squash. “Marrow squash, also known as vegetable marrow, is a very large, green summer squash. They are related to zucchini, and can grow to the size of a watermelon. They have a bland flavor, and are frequently stuffed with a meat stuffing.” The “farci” indicates that squash was stuffed. (source)

Fifth Course
Lamb, Mint Sauce
Roast Duckling, Apple Sauce
Sirloin of Beef, Chateau Potatoes
Green Peas
Creamed Carrots
Boiled Rice
Parmentier & Boiled New Potatoes

Chateau Potatoes are potatoes cut to the shape of olives, then cooked gently in clarified butter until golden and very soft, and sprinkled with parsley just before serving. (Escoffier, 2208)

Parmentier Potatoes is a pureed potato soup garnished with crouton and chervil, but it can also be served more like runny mashed potatoes. (Escoffier, 658)

Sixth Course
Punch Romaine

Punch à la Romaine is a mixture of dry white wine or champagne and a simple sugar syrup, plus the juices of two oranges and two lemons, with a bit of their zest, steeped for one hour. Strained and frozen, then mixed with a sweet meringue and then fortified with rum. It’s served like a sherbet, and acts as a palette cleanser. (Escoffier, 2932)

Seventh Course
Roast Squab & Cress

Squab is actually pigeon. Escoffier says, “Young pigeons are not very highly esteemed by gourmets, and this is more particularly to be regretted, since when the birds are of excellent quality, they are worthy of the best tables.”

Eighth Course
Cold Asparagus Vinaigrette

Ninth Course
Pate de Foie Gras
Celery

Tenth Course
Waldorf Pudding
Peaches in Chartreuse Jelly
Chocolate & Vanilla Eclairs
French Ice Cream

Escoffier has nothing to say about Waldorf Pudding, but research on the net turns up several improvised recipes (1, 2, 3), none of which are authentic. They involve essential ingredients based on the famous Waldorf Salad, which has apples, walnuts and raisins, but I can’t help but suspect that these guesses may be off course. While it’s true that the one of the more common recipes that the Waldorf Astoria is known for is the salad, there’s no reason to conclude that these are the only ingredients that could possibly be in a dessert named after it. Update, 4/28/08 : I found some old cookbooks online that list recipes for Waldorf Pudding. One has apples, the other one doesn’t. Read all about it.

Each of the 10 courses was served with a special accompanying wine. Following the tenth course, fresh fruits and cheeses were available followed by coffee and cigars accompanied by port and, if desired, distilled spirits.

You may also be interested in reading about what some of the other passengers on the Titanic were eating that night. Also, more information on the elusive recipe for Waldorf Pudding.

(A note about the Escoffier notation : The description of recipes listed here are taken from The Escoffier Cookbook : A Guide to the Fine Art of French Cuisine, by Auguste Escoffier. It is the defacto standard for french haute cuisine, and lists the 2,984 recipes contained in its pages numerically, and that is the number I give after each recipe.)


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